Bunkerville standoff case likely to be determined by the 9th Circuit

Cliven Bundy released from jail. (Photo by R-J’s K.M. Cannon via AP)

As Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.”

In the matter of the Bunkerville standoff case, the fat lady may be the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Though the judge on Monday dismissed the case against Cliven Bundy, two of his sons and a Montana militia man “with prejudice,” meaning the charges can’t simply be refiled and another trial scheduled, according to the Reuters account, The Associated Press notes that the U.S. attorney, Dayle Elieson, released a one-sentence statement saying she will make a determination about whether to challenge the ruling before the appellate court.

Four years after the standoff, in which armed protesters faced off with heavily armed BLM agents attempting to impound Bundy’s cattle for failure to pay $1 million in grazing fees and fines for two decades, and millions of tax dollars spent by the prosecution, what are the chances the feds will not appeal to the reliably liberal and prosecution-sympathetic 9th Circuit?

Witness the court’s pro-government rulings in both the Walker River Irrigation District and the Wayne Hage ranch cases. On both cases the court found that a federal judge’s hard-earned, keen-eyed determination that the federal land agencies were running rough shod over the defendants amounted to bias on the judge’s part rather than accurate judgment.

In the Walker River case the court found evidence of bias in the fact that the judge had stated, “I believe in constitutional rights. I believe in protecting the rights of the Native Americans and in property rights that have been recognized over time, I believe in that and that’s my agenda.”

Another factor may be that nearly all the disclosure evidence that the prosecution failed to turn over to the defense, which resulted in a mistrial and the dismissal of charges, were deemed not admissible in earlier trials. Could that be grounds for appeals in the handful of convictions in those trials, since the discovery was not available then? One man was sentenced to 68 years in prison.

For example, the judge noted that the prosecution failed to give to the defense log entries that said “snipers were inserted” outside the Bundy home, though prosecutors previously denied any snipers were posted and now say they were unaware of the FBI log showing otherwise. Ignorance is no excuse, the judge chided.

In an earlier trial, the same judge kicked defendant Erik Parker off the witness stand for trying to mention where a BLM sniper was positioned. He was not allowed to continue his defense. The judge had ruled that evidence of provocation was not admissible.

Also, according to AP, the judge has set a Feb. 26 trial date for four defendants still awaiting trial, including two more Bundy sons, Mel and David. What will they be allowed to argue in their defense, if the trial goes forward?



Son of embattled Moapa rancher claims feds have deployed snipers

Photo posted on Facebook by Bailey Bundy Logue.

Looks more like an invading army than a roundup. (R-J photo by John Locher)

According to the Moapa Valley Progress, that million-dollar roundup of Cliven Bundy’s cattle from the open range includes the deployment of snipers.

If that is the case, and it is based on one man’s word, have the feds learned nothing from the Branch Davidians and Ruby Ridge?

Ryan Bundy, one of Cliven’s sons, described how federal agents swooped in and arrested his brother Dave for the crime of filming from the right-of-way of a public highway.

“He was doing nothing but standing there and filming the landscape,” Ryan Bundy told the newspaper. “We were on the state highway, not even off of the right-of-way. Even if they want to call [the area that we were filming] federal land; which it’s not; we weren’t even on it. We were on the road.”

Apparently they were not in the federally designated Free Speech Zone, whatever that is. I thought it was that region between the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans and between the Canadian and Mexican borders and the Gulf of Mexico.

“I counted, they had 11 vehicles all with at least two agents in each one, maybe more,” Ryan Bundy said. “They also had four snipers on the hill above us all trained on us. We were doing nothing besides filming the area.”

Bundy said none of the family was armed.

“They said that we had no first amendment rights except for up by the bridge where they had established an area for that,” Bundy said.

The newspaper said BLM has established two fenced areas near Mesquite for free speech areas.

Ryan Bundy described the arrest of the brother thusly: “He was filming and talking on the phone, I don’t know to whom. It happened pretty fast. They came down on him hard and had a German Shepherd on him. And then they took him. …

“I stayed and witnessed the whole thing,” he said. “I told them that I was not going to engage them and that I just wanted to take my brother with me. But they were pushing, pushing, pushing! So I did stay there long enough to witness the whole thing, about 10 feet away from me.”

The Progress reported it received an email from the BLM saying, “An individual is in custody in order to protect public safety and maintain the peace. The individual has rights and therefore details about the arrest will not be disclosed until and unless charges are filed.” Secret detention?

The paper reported that Cliven had called emergency response in both Mesquite and for Metro, but was told to get off the phone or he would be arrested.

The Las Vegas newspaper had not updated this morning’s story on its website by noon.